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SafetyNet: Pisces

London, United KingdomLondon, United Kingdom
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Overfishing is a global issue that threatens our future food security. SafetyNet designs and builds devices to increase the age and species selectivity of commercial fishing practices, making the industry more sustainable. Our ultimate goal is to help fishermen catch the right fish.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we could only catch the fish we needed, meaning a reliable future food source for the 1/5 of the global population who rely on them for protein?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Overfishing is a global issue that threatens our future food security. Many oceans are fished in an unsustainable way, meaning that some stocks are now extinct in certain areas, with many others under threat. Continuing to fish in this way, without addressing how we catch only the quantities and types of fish that we need, will lead to the loss of an essential global food source and less future food security.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our solutions enable the testing of the effect of light based visual stimuli on different fish capture processes. We create a range of different shapes and sized devices which can be fitted to any kind of fish capture equipment. Most of the devices we produce can also be programmed to change the colour, brightness and patterns of light to enable different experiments. By producing simple, but flexible and standardised, tools we are helping accelerate the understanding of how light can alter the species and size selectivity of different fish capture processes. Learning more about how light works in this way has enabled us to build much simpler devices that fishermen can use to raise the selectivity of their existing nets.


Global James Dyson Award, Observer Ethical Award, Sustain RCA Award.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Light has been shown to change what kinds of fish are caught in different capture processes (for example, trawling). However, a lot of these insights have been found through small experiments that don't scale well across industry or academia. The light devices that SafetyNet builds enable this experimentation to happen more quickly, across more stakeholders, enabling a greater impact. SafetyNet devices can be used to attract, repel and otherwise influence fish escape behaviour, which could lead to more sustainable fishing and far less wastage across the industry. The pilot schemes we're involved with all aim to demonstrate the usefulness of these systems, and how they can lead to a more resilient food supply.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

SafetyNet devices are currently involved in a number of trials in European fisheries. Most of SafetyNet's impact has been around raising awareness of light as a tool across the fishing industry and academia, and demonstrating more agile, experimental and cost-effective ways of approaching technology development. Current testing is focused on technology robustness, enabling future longer-term catch-comparison trials with partners from Scotland, Norway, Portugal and the USA. If SafetyNet devices lead to a 10% reduction (experiments have shown higher) in global reported bycatch across fish capture methods, that would see a 2.7m tonne reduction in wasted fish and a possible saving of $100m/pa based on Oceanea's proposed $1bn wasted each year due to bycatch. Increased efficiency would also see the safeguarding of thousands of jobs in the global marine sector and a more resilient food source.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

1: Accelerate the understanding of how light can affect fish capture process through the provision of flexible tools that the academic community can use to conduct detailed, scalable experiments based on their informed hypotheses. Lowering the technology barrier is where SafetyNet can have the biggest impact. 2: Use experimental outcomes to create devices that are cost-effective and represent real value to fishermen through helping them comply with new sustainability regulation. Create businesses cases around the devices that enable them to have impact at scale. 3: Repeatedly innovate.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Academic customers: SafetyNet currently offers product development consultancy and technology development partnerships through commercial and grant-funded opportunities. Fishermen: The wider market of fishermen, who are increasingly legislated against (particularly in Europe), are being forced to find methods to cut down on bycatch and discarding of fish. SafetyNet devices can help them to do this in a cost-effective way that suits their needs.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Several initiatives have been identified through the WWF Smart Gear competition. Many of them are focused on net-geometry or governance schemes as their main mechanism for creating change and increasing selectivity. Using light is a relatively new idea and SafetyNet is working with most of the leading experts in this field to produce workable, scalable solutions, where previous solutions have not been fit for a mass market (tending to be useful only at the experimental level). Sustainable solutions must be backed by a sustainable business model, and our experience enables us to achieve this.

Founding Story

The SafetyNet project began as a final year Masters of Engineering project while Dan Watson was studying at Glasgow University. Having read about Scottish fishermen being detained in Norwegian waters due to throwing fish back into the sea, an illegal practice in Norway, it seemed that the fishermen had little choice as strict legislation was not backed by effective tools for lowering bycatch. Working with fishermen, scientists and regulators, Dan began to explore academic papers from as far back as 1970s, finding insights that had never been turned into technology solutions. These insights around light formed the basis of the first fish selectivity device, the Escape Ring.


Core team: Dan Watson is Founder and CEO. Having started out designing and building prototype devices, Dan's role is now split between this and business development, bid writing and generally keeping the company afloat. He works part-time on SafetyNet and part-time in the space industry, where he is Design Lead at the UK government's Satellite Applications Catapult. Although a lot has been achieved so far through part-time engagement, Dan recognises the need to spend more time on SafetyNet if it is to succeed in the way he wants it to. His academic qualifications include MEng (Glasgow University and Glasgow School of Art), MA (Royal College of Art, London) and MSc (Imperial College, London). He won the global James Dyson Award, was recognised as a Top 100 Briton in 2012 by the Guardian Newspaper and has pitched-to, and received funding from, Sir Richard Branson, beating 300 other candidates. Aran Dasan is Chief Engineer. If it's electromechanical, Aran can almost certainly build it - if not immediately then he'll find out how. He has previously started a business around the provision of insects as food to the mass market, built flame-throwing devices for concerts and run a festival in a Spanish desert. He has also built the mechanical and control systems that enable a waterless toilet, the electronics for a landmine simulator for training purposes and, now, many devices for use in fishing gears. His academic qualifications include MEng (Cambridge University), MA (Royal College of Art, London), MSc (Imperial College, London). He has won several awards through the projects he's worked on, including the Braun Prize. He works on SafetyNet part time. Engineers: Kunal Nandi: Previously worked at Airbus, adept at mechanical design, electronic and mechanical assembly and project management. Kunal works on SafetyNet part time. Mark Thompson: Very well versed in mechanical design, design for manufacture, product development and prototyping. Mark works on SafetyNet part time to fit around his other responsibilities. George Addison: George is an intern at the Satellite Applications Catapult, and recently built the control system and electronics for a nano-satellite from scratch. He focuses on PCB design and electronics part-time for SafetyNet. Storyteller: Niki Banados is SafetyNet's storyteller, working on everything from our logo to our website, helping people understand who we are and why we do what we do. We are currently able to handle the project load and responsibilities presented by the projects in which we are involved. However, there is a strong desire to transition from part-time to full-time work as we could achieve so much more with the additional time. To this end, investment is being sought from a variety of different sources. Thus far, we've done a lot with a little, but it now feels like it's time to scale up.